Beauty From Ashes

 

Beauty from Ashes

This is the last article in our Burned series and I wanted to share with all of you a personal story that occurred almost 10 years ago. Beauty came from the ashes of our experience.

A couple of months after my husband and I were married this memorable day occurred. All week I had called in to work because of a kidney infection, except on Friday I finally felt the obligation to go in. I was dreading the day because of stressful conditions at work on top of trying to get past the lingering kidney pain.

The Unexpected Flames

In the mid morning my husband called to talk to me on the phone for a few minutes. He was set to go into work around lunch time and get off later in the evening. As we were talking, he walked into our bedroom, and I could hear a distinct change in his voice. He was stunned by something, but I could not see what it was. He finally got across to me that there was a fire. I quickly reminded him of the fire extinguisher down the hallway next to the washer and dryer. He hung up the phone and rushed to spray out the fire.

Our iron had fallen onto the shirt draped on the board waiting to be ironed. When he walked into the room flames were dripping down the shirt sleeves and onto the carpet. He sprayed the fire until he could no longer see flames. The fumes of the spray caused him to leave the room. Having asthma he could not stay to breathe in any more of the dense particles in the air because it was making him cough. He walked down to the office and tell the apartment manager about what happened. He returned and found he had locked himself out and had to return to the office again and retrieve a spare key. As he opened the front door and black smoke billowed out. He says he felt the Lord speak to him and say, “Don’t go in there or you won’t come out alive.”

My husband called me telling me what happened and as I drove home fire trucks passed me along the way. Come to find out, because our fire was in an apartment complex it was considered a 4 or 5 alarm fire.  Red and yellow fire engines filled with men lined the streets to make sure the entire complex did not go up into flames. We were a bit embarrassed that all of those men were out there because of our fire.

Broken-Hearted Beginnings

My husband sat out on the grass across the street from our apartment building crushed. We watched the last of the flames extinguished and saw the firemen shovel our belongings onto heaps on the ground with all types of debris. One other unit was destroyed by fire, the apartment below us was filled with water from putting out the fire.

We had only been married for two months and in some ways it was devastating and honestly interesting. It was devastating to have only the clothes on our backs… my husband not even having a shirt on at the time, was given a shirt from a person in the complex. Both of our immediate families were hundreds of miles away, we were alone in many ways but…

God was working in our lives before our fire to take care of us.

Seeing God’s Care Before Our Fire

I believe it was 2 weeks earlier, an insurance salesman in our church, talked my husband into getting renter’s insurance. Little did we know that our policy would be cashed in full and take care of the apartment complex’s damages too since we were at fault for leaving the iron unattended. The fire chief was astonished that in his long history he had never come across anyone living in an apartment complex with renter’s insurance. That was God’s doing.

We smelled the smell of the smoke and the heat of the fire in the concrete after we were allowed to enter the apartment again. Some things were salvageable like the bookshelf of our yearbooks from high school and college.  We received a little money to help us buy clothes for church on Sunday and my husband’s job donated coats, a suit, bedding and towels. My employer gave us half of their Thanksgiving can drive donations and filled our pantry to the brim. Our church took up an offering of around $2,000 to help us. My aunt took us in until there was another apartment ready for us. When our insurance check came in we were able to buy new things for our home, even a Rowenta iron that shuts off automatically and is still working great! God’s provision for our great needs was demonstrated day after day in the weeks after the fire.

“We had nothing but God in that vulnerable moment where we sat on the grass across from the burnt apartment.”

We had nothing but God in that vulnerable moment where we sat on the grass across from the burnt apartment. The song on my heart was, “This is the Day.” God did make the day and I tried hard to console my husband and convince Him not to feel guilty because God knew what would happen to us that day.  I did have a turn of emotions and shock a day later that took a while to get over. But in those first moments, I felt God’s presence and His comfort. He was there sitting beside us and comforting us.

Beauty From Ashes

There was beauty from the ashes in our life . If you  study about fires, ashes are a fertilizer. They fertilize the ground to make it more productive for seed. That is why when a forest fire occurs new growth will begin again in the seasons to follow.

My grandmother shared this verse with us shortly after the fire,

“…we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.” Psalm 66:12

We were not wealthy because we had a large insurance check handed to us and things given to us. We were wealthy because of God’s presence and comfort was with us. We were blessed with physical things after our losses, but that cannot compare to the spiritual gift of God’s promise to be with us always.

We also became wealthy, because almost to the day, a year later, our first son was born. God gave us the gift of that sweet boy at that specific time, I believe, as a symbol of His love. He was another beauty from our ashes.

For You

I don’t know the fires of your life, how vulnerable you may feel, how alone or destitute you are spiritually or physically, but I pray that you will have trust enough to believe that God is with you. Seek out the comforts of the Holy Spirit, draw nigh to God and watch Him draw nigh to you. Allow the spiritual songs that speak whispers in your heart to fill your mind and sing praises to the Lord. He is worthy of all praise on good days and bad. I do not know exactly how God will bless you after your trials and experiences, but there is certainly a rich reward to those that love Him.

Satan will come and make you doubt in times after harsh fires, but dismiss his lies, and accept that beauty can come from ashes and fertilize your life to make you bloom in your spiritual life. I pray this personal testimony will be a blessing to you. If you are going through any type of spiritual burns and need prayer, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Read the other articles in this series:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Burned By Deep Ministry Hurts

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHealing From Deep Ministry Hurts

 

Burned By Deep Ministry Hurts

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As we drove last summer toward a hidden lake among the mountains of Northern Colorado there was the beauty of the forest surrounding us. Tall dark green pine trees on both sides of the road clinging to the sides of the mountains. It was a magnificent sight to see until we came into vast expanses of burned pine trees standing up from the ground like toothpicks. The evidence of forest fires from previous years went on for miles. The ground was also littered with fallen trees that had slid down the mountains and hills, making the beauty of the landscape dissipate to a very disturbing sight.

Burned Trees Collage

Trapper’s Lake

A few minutes into our hike I noticed patches of trees that had been saved from the forest fires, but all around them stood the skeletons of the forest. The burned trees stood as monuments of a life that once was vibrant and full of its God-given purpose. New grass had begun to grow around the burned remains of trees, some vines and flowers had grown around them, but the remains looked unbecoming in the landscape of the hidden lake.

I took pictures because in my heart I knew I would write about being burned in the ministry. As much as I hated to see the evidence of the trials of that particular forest, it was beautiful to see the lush grass and wildflowers blooming with insects finding their way around to pollinate the other flowers. Life was returning but the scars stood as evidence of the hurt.

I realize as many of you read this that I am not a seasoned veteran of the ministry and probably  burns and hurts will come to our lives that I do not even wish to think of or imagine. I had a deep ministry hurt occur as I served as a secretary in our church when I was single. It took me many years to forgive the particular person involved, and I had to deal with the roots of bitterness I had in my heart toward them over and over. It does still hurt to think about, but the thoughts do not control me anymore, because the Lord continued to teach me about forgiveness.

Ministry hurts shake you to the core and sometimes leave you lifeless like a burned pine tree. It messes with your mind, it creates doubt in your heart toward people, and it may even leave you with questions about whether God really cares. While I have recovered and new blooms have also come into my life and our current ministry, I still remember what it was like.  I hope this article will give you some good helps on what you can do to help yourself or someone else that has been burned by the ministry.

1. Acknowledge the hurt and talk to God about it.

Each life situation goes across God’s sacred desk before He approves it or allows it. He knows about the hurt you are thinking of now. The people and situations that have caused it and the disappointment and betrayal you may be feeling. Be honest when you speak to God about them, you don’t have to question Him or be angry with Him. In humble acknowledgement you can go to Him as a child goes to His father and tells him the problems, doubts, and fears he has.

The gospel song says it all when it says, “When you don’t feel like praying pray.” You may not feel like it, you may not want to, but you should do it anyway.

2. When your thoughts go a mile a minute in every direction from the temptation to exact vengeance upon someone to utter despair, think of God.

This verse in particular spoke to my heart during one of my hardest trials.

In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul. Psalm 94:19

While others may be against us and the reality of the hurt may set in, we must ALWAYS find comfort in the Lord. All other worldly comforts, gossip, backbiting, drinking alcohol, abusing pain medications, forsaking our immediate family members are not the cure. Our comfort must come from God alone.

3. Allow yourself time to heal from the burns.

The grass in the forest did not begin to grow again in the forest until time had passed after the forest fire. Sometimes after significant ministry problems we expect (and other people expect) that we should bounce back to our original self and be ready to fight the good fight of faith with vigor and resilience. This is not realistic for someone who has been wounded deeply.

Think of Elijah the prophet, this story is very different in many ways from the purpose of this post, but I think the love in which God ministered to him is an example of how He cares for us when are hurt by the ministry.

I Kings 19: 5-8 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.

God ministered to Elijah through the angel. I believe God sends special gifts of blessings in our hurts to help us recuperate and gain our strength again. But it takes some time. We may not be able to take a break from ministry during these times but we should be resting on days where we can and allowing God to minister to our hearts.

4. Take care of your daily personal needs. 

One of the hardest things about deep hurts is that our body can manifest the pain in many ways from anxiety to depression to an unsettled sadness or burning in your chest. Your teeth may itch or you may suddenly burst into tears. Take care of your health, mind, and spirit during these times so that the physical manifestations of your stress will subside.

Eat healthy foods regularly, take naps and get to bed on time, get up and bathe and put on clean clothes. When we are in the initial response from burns and hurts in our lives we sometimes go into shock and even the simplest tasks go undone. When you will get yourself up and ready for the day and carry on with normal activities, it will help you heal faster.

5. Take Care of Your Spiritual Needs

I mentioned earlier that taking care of your thoughts and mind is comforting yourself with God’s blessings.

The spiritual man inside of us when burned needs special attention. We still need to read our Bible, seek out God’s answers, and go to the Balm of Gilead to allow Him to heal our hearts. When He speaks we should respond correctly. The book of Psalms can be especially helpful to read during hard times.

Putting off necessary steps of healing, such as making things right with the person that caused the pain, can be difficult. Disobeying God’s promptings will prolong the hurt. Every situation for every person is different, we must be obedient to what He tells us to do. It may be committing to pray for the people involved, doing something nice for them (even if they don’t deserve it), or making a decision to not load our spouse down with talking about the situation all the time. You will know when God speaks to your heart.

Conclusion

I will never tell you that the burns of ministry are easy, that you should be this or do that by a specific time period. There should be a time of healing and recovery in your life, these times and situations may redefine your life but should not redefine your standing with the Lord. There is a future and a plan He has for us. After we are healed our job is to help others when they are going through their own hurts.

The next article on this topic will be Healing From Deep Ministry Hurts.